By Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa
I was excited to leave for Tanzania.
First and foremost, I was going to have time visiting with the families in our program and collecting stories, which has always been the highlight of my work as a communications liaison for Unbound.
Secondly, the weather there is much warmer than the weather in Nairobi. I love the sun; its rays fill me with warmth.
I got to Tanzania around 8 at night and was happy to see one of the staff members waiting for me at the airport. The air was warm, just what I like. I took off the heavy jacket I was wearing from Nairobi and shoved it to the bottom of my suitcase.
Tanzanians speak Swahili, and while I speak Swahili, too, the Swahili they speak is more polished than what I am used to. Tanzanians also speak a little faster, so I had to be keen to get every word they were saying. Sometimes I had to ask them to interpret for me in English.
My first day visiting the families was really interesting. People from Tanzania are very polite. When you greet people, they thank you for greeting them. That was different for me, but at the same time I was humbled by their mannerism.
Among the sponsored youth I met were twin girls who are both excellent golfers. The girls’ brother worked at a golf club and asked a friend who was a golf instructor if his sisters could come to the club to learn the sport. The instructor thought it would be interesting for the girls to learn golf and agreed to teach them. That’s how they got their start in the sport.
One of them told me about a tournament in another country that she missed out on because she was too young to travel alone. Tears streaming down her face, she told me how disappointed she was to miss out on the tournament.
A philosopher, Benjamin Disraeli, once said, “Man is only great when he acts from passion.” These words came to mind as I talked with the girls. Their passion for their sport shone through their words and beamed on their faces.
Another highlight of my visit had to do with food. Part of our culture as Africans is sharing food, especially with visitors. But I learned something new in my travels to Tanzania. Sharing food there means eating from the same plate.
I visited a family who had prepared a meal of rice, beans and vegetables, known in Swahili as “ubwabwa, maharagwe na mchicha.” We all sat on the mat and, after washing our hands, ate from the same plate, called sinia in Swahili.
In another instance, when we had finished field work, I went with the Tanzania staff to have lunch and we all ate from the same big plate.
The sharing of food was significant to me. It meant we are one. Eating from the same plate symbolized the unity between us — the love we share with each other as part of the Unbound family.
Time went by fast, and before I knew it I was digging to the bottom of my suitcase for the heavy jacket I had happily tucked away. It was time to go back home.
Thoughts of the people I met, experiences I had and stories shared will fill my heart with warmth until the next time I visit beautiful Tanzania.